Casey Wiegmann still has the letter he wrote in fourth grade that explained that he wanted to play football and basketball at the University of Iowa — and that he wanted to be a pig farmer.
So when the Iowa Farm Bureau and the Iowa athletic department were looking for a former player to be the first to make the ANF Wall of Honor, Wiegmann was an obvious choice.
“When you talk about work ethic and character, and what it means to be an Iowan, Casey Wiegmann is your choice any day of the week,” said Denny Presnall, the executive director of the Iowa Farm Bureau. “He understands the work ethic, the dedication you have to have every day. That’s the farm attitude, it’s the attitude Casey displays.”
Presnall is reminded of the remarkable 175 consecutive games and 11,162 consecutive snaps Wiegmann had in the NFL before retiring last season.
It was a streak that Wiegmann maintained even when he wasn’t always feeling 100 percent, grinding away at center on the offensive line.
“Last year was my most trying time,” Wiegmann said. “I was in the training room a lot more.”
Wiegmann officially will be inducted on the ANF Wall of Honor during tonight’s game against Penn State. There is a new display in the northwest corner of Kinnick Stadium in the ANF Plaza.
“All the players that have come through the University of Iowa and have been in the agricultural field,” Wiegmann said. “I’m so honored to be the initial member. It means a lot to me.”
Hayden Fry added the ANF (America Needs Farmers) sticker to Iowa helmets in 1985 — when the Hawkeyes were the top-ranked team in the country — to help raise awareness for the farm crisis.
“A lot of things I learned on the farm, I applied to coaching football,” Fry said in 2011. “It was amazing the great response we got, not only in Iowa, but across the nation.”
Kirk Ferentz brought the ANF sticker back in 2009.
“Hayden Fry is a very bright man, and he did it for the right reasons,” Wiegmann said. “It was to get America on the side of farmers; to get more knowledge out there.”
Wiegmann was directly impacted by the farm crisis. His father was laid off at John Deere in the mid-1980s and the family had to move to Wichita, Kan.
“I just knew my parents had to make a living,” Wiegmann said. “That’s what we had to do. He started by driving back and forth on weekends, just to be with his family. He was doing everything he could to support his family.”
Wiegmann and his family returned to Aplington-Parkersburg when his father was re-hired by John Deere. He said it changed his life to be guided by legendary coach Ed Thomas.
He had a solid career at Iowa from 1991-95, making 27 starts over three seasons, but got hurt in the Sun Bowl in his final game.
Wiegmann had a Lisfranc fracture in his foot and all the teams at the NFL combine told him he’d never play football again.
“That just triggered me for some reason,” Wiegmann said. “I can’t end that way. One team gave me a shot, and that’s all it took.”
He spent a year with Indianapolis and two with the New York Jets before catching on with Chicago.
Wiegmann started 25 games with the Bears before going to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2001.
It was there he met his future wife, Danni Boatwright, a model who won “Survivor: Guatemala” in 2005. The pair have two sons — Bo, 5, and Stone, who turns 2 on Nov. 1.
“Some day when my boys get a little bit older, I’ll be able to do a little bit of (farming) also,” Wiegmann said.
Wiegmann lives near Kansas City but has a summer home on Clear Lake. It is there he and business partner Jared DeVries — another former Hawkeye and NFL standout who played at Aplington-Parkersburg — have about 1,250 acres of farmland.
“I’m not really a true farmer,” Wiegmann said. “Not yet.”
Ed Thomas was shot and killed in 2009. He had Wiegmann’s grade-school paper in his office. It was given back to Wiegmann through Thomas’ wife and now is hanging framed in his youngest son’s room.
“I called coach for everything,” Wiegmann said about Thomas. “I even called him when I was getting ready to get married.
“What coach Thomas did for me, I want to do for other high school kids.”
Growing the next generation of players suits Wiegmann well. And he still has time to start up that pig farm.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football